Credit: Frobelles
Credit: Frobelles

Curly-coily and cool: The UK app Frobelles seeks to empower kids in the U.S.  

The demand for diversity and inclusion in America is attracting Black-focused international entrepreneurs from around the globe. Frobelles, an app game developed by a mother and daughter to celebrate afro-textured hair, recently launched in the U.S.

Yvonne Ottley created Frobelles, the UK’s first afro hair championing game, for her daughter Alyssa who was six at the time and loved all the typical avatar style dress up apps.

Yvonne already told her daughter about textures and all the amazing things that afro hair could do. Games, however, noticeably lacked female characters who looked like Alyssa. 

The disparity had an explanation. Although women make up almost 50% of gamers, only 4% of game developers globally identify as Black, African-American, African or Afro-Caribbean.

A self-taught graphic designer by trade, Yvonne took matters into her own hands, asking Alyssa: “How about we create our own game?”

At the time, she knew nothing about game development, but that didn’t stop Alyssa from pushing forward.

They felt strongly that this goal could have an important social and psychological impact on other children. 

With her daughter as a mini-CEO and with the help of an illustrator and developer, Yvonne breathed life into Frobelles in November 2020. Together, the mother-daughter duo chose hairstyle options and voiced the characters.

The action in Frobelles centers around three sisters — Coco, Kelli, and Krista — who all rock their natural curls and individual styles with the utmost confidence. Players can dress the characters, shop, share their looks with friends, and more.

Initially launched in the UK, the game made it to the U.S. market in March. 

“We felt it was a natural next step to expand to the U.S.,” Yvonne said. “As with any new market, we will have to recalibrate here and there, but so far, so good.”

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There’s a more pronounced demand for diversity and inclusion in the U.S., especially in children’s content, says Yvonne. This opportunity is also driven by a much larger population. 

“In some ways, we feel the U.S. is ahead of the UK in the adoption of Black-owned businesses,” she said. “Consumers in the U.S. market are eagerly seeking products and services that align with their core values.”

With a fan club, offline events, national campaigns and partnerships, the app has already surpassed 100,000 downloads. 

While previous years have seen the popularity of dress-up games such as StarDoll, Frobelles is part of a new generation of startups looking to boost girls’ confidence.

“Although there are other apps and games catering to diverse audiences in the U.S., we have a unique focus on celebrating afro hair and fostering self-esteem among curly-coily haired children,” Yvonne said. 

She believes that Frobelles emphasis on empowerment, education, and community sets the app apart from any potential competitors.

“We aim not only to entertain but also to create a safe and inclusive space for young minds to thrive,” she added.

As part of expansion plans in the U.S., the app seeks to partner with schools, youth organizations, and advocacy groups to promote hair education, foster self-esteem, as well as to utilize ambition. 

“Alyssa is an award-winning entrepreneur at just 12-years old,” Yvonne said. “So on a bigger scale, we want to inspire other children to be the change they wish to see. Even small initiatives have the potential to make a big impact.”

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